Apprenticeship Workshop: Observation and “Detailed Details”

by Emma McDonald, Company One Apprentice

 

Observation is something almost all people are capable of. In preparation for the Apprentice’s next event, they have been observing the people and world around them through a series of activities and exercises. These have included describing daily what they see on their the way to work, a mental and physical visualization exercise of a familiar place (bedrooms), and a step by step description of how to make toast. By digging into receptors of the mind, people are able to better differentiate the world around them, eventually becoming more empiric. In addition to observing what they are able to see with their own eyes around Boston, the Apprentices have also looked at a myriad of different photos, exploring different themes and feelings and challenging themselves to record their observations as thoroughly and with as many details as possible. During one exercise, each Apprentice chose a photo, and then had to describe it in four ways: what they saw, how they felt, the smells it reminded them of, and choosing or creating a song to represent the chosen picture.

Below are examples of their work!

 

APP3Emma’s narrative about a photo of a New York City skyline sunset:

A summer sunset in a big city, far from any neutrality. The warm, copper-like horizon breaks off into a juxtaposed, cool metallic line. The strategically placed iconic buildings have one side facing the sun, which illuminates said side and leaves the other in almost complete darkness. The windows twinkle like the stars you see in upstate Vermont, some are brighter than others, but they all hold at least one wish. The clouds are intertwined with the buildings that are grand in stature, both having racing opacities as each minute passes. The water off in the distance is calm, unlike the chaos happening below the sunset. The stretch of buildings could continue forever but is stopped by the darkness of night ready to fall from space itself. The shadows cast by the colossal structures overpower the smaller buildings and even the people who cannot even be compared by size. The top points of each building stretch as much as they can to the sky, desperately trying to not be forgotten.

 

Erique’s feelings regarding a well organized photo of a man typing:

APP2Memories of me sitting in my room, lights are off, except for the firefly lights that are always on, so there is a distinct red and yellow lighting. I would be laying back on a pile of pillows, laptop on my lap. Chips or Oreos in a paper plate sitting on the comforter. And me staring at my laptop, either on Facebook, Instagram, or watching Netflix. My phone in my pocket and really just chilling. Or a memory of me still with lights off and firefly lights on, But instead the laptop would sit on the bed and I would be rearranging furniture in my room while also cleaning. Listening to Alessia Cara Album, or the Neighborhood, or  Lianne La Havas’ song Elusive. Again though feeling of being warm and in my space, just chilling. Maybe a friend might FaceTime me or something. Memories of doing my junior thesis up until 3 am, with the TV on just to keep me awake, or loud music. Memories of me forgetting I had homework and then remembering at 12. Nights of 5 page Bio Homework

 

The smells Kennisha associates with a tropical, beautiful beach:APP

There seem to be a gentle breeze as the trees seem to be swaying and dancing slowly to it. The waves seem to be caressing every pieces of dry sand it touches. The waves seem to be so soft and quiet that it could rock a baby to sleep. The breeze is beckoning the waves ashore but instead of going ashore, it forms a blanket of water over the already wet sand. It reminds me of when I went to the beach with my mom and our church when I was little. I was so excited on that day. It was a beautiful sunny day with barely any clouds in the sky just like in the picture. I remember smelling the salt water when I got off the bus. You could almost taste the salt from the water as the warm breeze was blowing.

 

Eric’s rap he wrote about a photo of birthday cupcakes:

APP4

Happy birthday, yo it’s yo’ birthday rap up for yo’ birthday. It’s the one day of the, of the year where it’s all about you. Make sure to make that live. Hard stay up, yo.

Did I hear it’s yo’ birthday? Make it count because the one day (day) of the year where everyone wants to make your day, but this just made your day.

It’s that day again,  yo, because it’s yo’ birthday. So get that money, live it up, don’t stop trying. Don’t let nobody bring you down.

It’s not only make money Friday, but it’s yo’ birthday, so it’s make money big today.

‘Ight I feel like we been through it all. Hell and though fire and water. Broke money though it all.

I am happy. Say you’re not only the best person to me in the world. You are funniest, smartest person in the world. When we first met I didn’t like you at all, but now it’s like your  are my life. Have a good birthday. Live it up.

EJ Bonilla Inspires Stage One and Boston Arts Academy Students

EJ Bonilla Visit 2

Company One (C1) recently had the pleasure of hosting film and television actor, EJ Bonilla, best known for his work on the independent films Four and The House that Jack Built, and who is currently featured in A&E’s Unforgettable. EJ visited Young Achievers Academy (YA) in Mattapan, where C1 facilitates a yearlong residency and touches the lives of more than one hundred students per week with the transformative power of theatre.

Alexandria King, C1 Teaching Artist at Young Achievers, said, “EJ was extremely generous with his time and wisdom. EJ is a true artist and educator.” The day began at YA with an assembly of eager students waiting to meet the rising actor. Opening with a performance of Shakespeare’s famous Hamlet speech, EJ aligned the concept of ‘to be or not to be’ with his personal story of pursuing his dreams.

EJ Bonilla Visit 3EJ grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where the distractions and circumstances of living in a struggling neighborhood often presented roadblocks in his life. It was because of teachers that recognized his unique talents (even landing him a scholarship to ballet school), and a family that rallied around him, that EJ was able to realize his personal mission as an artist and commit to achieving his goals.

Ms. King said the most important lesson EJ wanted students to learn is that, if you commit yourself 100% to what you love, take advantages of the opportunities that come your way as a young person, and resist poor choices, then doors will open for you. EJ shared with students that he was a very shy kid, even pretending to sleep at the lunch table to avoid his peers. It was theatre that enabled him to build confidence and become the dynamic performer that he is today.

Not only did EJ impart sage advice to the aspiring actors of YA, but he also worked closely with students on developing characters and rehearsing scene work from Romeo and Juliet. EJ visited Boston Arts Academy the following day, and collaborated with students from the beginning of the school day until the end of evening rehearsal.


EJ will return in January 2016 to reconnect with YA students and hopefully meet more of the young people that benefit from C1 theatre residencies in Boston Public Schools. On behalf of Company One Theatre, we would like to extend our deepest thanks to EJ Bonilla for the inspirational visit with our students and empowering them to make good choices and pursue their dreams. We would also like to thank Ms. King for inviting EJ into the C1 family.
EJ Bonilla Visit 4

Stage One Profile: Ros Thomas-Clark and Victoria Marsh

Ros and Victoria, preparing for another PDA workshop.

Ros and Victoria, preparing for another PDA workshop.

Like Sonny and Cher, Abbott and Costello, and Fry and Laurie, one cannot think of a better duo within the Company One Theatre family than acting instructors Ros Thomas-Clark and Victoria Marsh. Both Ros and Victoria serve as members of C1’s Board and have been vital contributors to the growth of the company, particularly in the education department. Although fondly referred to as a twosome by many who know them, both have had incredibly diverse and rich journeys that led them to C1 and both are extremely respected and active in the theatre scene in and around Boston.

A native of England who has lived in the USA for decades, Ros’ passion centers on educational theatre as a means of social change and remembrance of history. She is a founding faculty member of the Boston Arts Academy (BAA) and strives to bring together theatre makers with varied training backgrounds, particularly the youth she works with at BAA. Ros is the Artistic Director of TC Squared, a company that embraces mentorship as vital to the development of civically engaged artists.

Victoria in class with the Fall 2015 PDA students

Victoria in class with the Fall 2015 PDA students

Equally committed to this idea is Victoria, whose passion for new play development has led to a career in theatre collaborating with playwrights and theatre companies from all over Boston. Victoria has directed 6 Company One productions, including 2 Boston premieres by Kirsten Greenidge. Victoria has served on the Company One Board since 2006.  “When Ros joined the Board, we discovered our mutual passion for working with actors.  We saw the need for a class that keeps actors on their toes when they are between gigs.  We just love to watch actors grow.”

Despite already having incredibly busy and fulfilling careers in theatre, Ros and Victoria’s dedication to artist development brought them together to lead C1’s Professional Development for Actors (PDA) program in 2009. The dynamic between the two instructors give the class an energy and pulse unlike any acting class of its kind. Actors leave the audition room that first day having forgotten their nerves because of Ros and Victoria’s critical yet kind and encouraging feedback.

“They feed off of each other’s energy, bringing so much joy and excitement for the work into the room that the other folks in a room with them can’t help but come along for the ride,” says Mark VanDerzee, C1’s Education Director who works very closely with the two.

There are many students who return to PDA precisely for this reason. There is a nurturing quality to the way Ros and Victoria run the class and yet they are large advocates of risk taking and bold decisions. Each actor is encouraged to find their autonomy and yet they are supported and guided to grow into their characters and into their craft.

“It’s good to be in a class that’s very hands on,” reflects Danny Sayson, who’s currently completing his second session in the class. “They have different views and they’re great at pointing out different ways to look at a scene.”

Like any iconic duo, it’s what differentiates Ros and Victoria that makes them memorable as individuals and it’s how they are able to seamlessly work together that makes them invaluable as teachers. “Victoria and I stay up into the wee small hours as we become more and more excited about finding strong pieces that work for each individual actor,” said Ros when asked to speak on her time with the PDA class and on her relationship with Victoria. “Our directing style is both comic and intentionally serious as we compliment each other running each Master Class.”

Comic and intentional – what a fitting way of describing not only their personalities but their teaching style as well. As teachers and as citizens, as mentors and theatre makers, Ros and Victoria will first and foremost always be friends – to their students, to C1 and to one another.

Check out the work of Ros, Victoria, and this year’s PDA students at their fall showcase, Tuesday, November 17th at the Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Black Box Theatre. RSVP online: CLICK HERE.

IMG_1978

C1’s Fall 2015 PDA Class, instructed by Ros and Victoria

Final Meeting for 2014-2015 Teaching Artists

Stage One Teaching Artists take a selfie with their program director.

Stage One Teaching Artists take an end-of-year selfie with their program director.

The Teaching Artists at Company One are the driving force behind our Stage One In-School teaching residencies. You may recognize them from appearances in C1 shows like SHOCKHEADED PETER, DISPLACED HINDU GODS TRILOGY, SPLENDOR, and HOW WE GOT ON, but they’ve spent the entire school year representing C1 and bringing their skills, talent, and artistic leadership to elementary, middle, and high school students all over Boston. Stage One theatre classes cover units like improvisation, playwriting, and social justice, and provide students with the foundational experience of working towards common artistic goals with their peers and using theatre as a tool to explore, represent, and articulate the values of their community. At our last program meeting, the Education staff and Teaching Artists shared some of their most memorable in-school moments and discussed their end-of-year plans for Stage One students. Keep an eye out for future posts of student work, feedback about their experience, and photos from final performances and showcases.

Building Theatrical, Student-Driven Responses to National Events: Part 2

USA Students - Stage One Class 3In Part 1 of this Stage One Blog Post about the February 2015 Urban Science Academy (USA) theatre showcase, Stage One Teaching Artist, James Milord, introduced his high school theatre students to the foundational elements of improvisation, character development, and storytelling. The first quarter of the 2014-2015 school year ended with a showcase at a school-wide assembly of student-written scenes and monologues based on personal experiences. The second quarter began with an intentional look forward towards Black History Month. Class continued in November with plans to read and stage The Good Negro—Tracey Scott Wilson’s 2009 historical fiction play about the personal lives of civil rights leaders in 1960’s Alabama. Milord performed as a cast member in Company One Theatre’s 2010 production, which provided him with an intimate knowledge of the play’s structure and themes, and the ability to pass on this knowledge to his students.

BlackLivesMatter BostonOccurring simultaneously were the developments surrounding the non-indictment decisions for officers involved in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the hundreds of “Hands up, Don’t Shoot/I Can’t Breathe” demonstrations around the world. Milord decided to open up his classroom for the group to speak to each other about how these events impacted their lives as students, artists, and citizens. Milord was initially struck by how passionate and, at times, polarizing the students’ reactions were to these events. The group was notably transparent about what was happening culturally in the world and around them. Milord attributed the students’ progressive dialogue to the safe, liberating environment of his classroom, which functioned more as a theatre ensemble than a traditional academic class.

USA Students - Stage One Class 1The Good Negro was put aside, and the group discussed the meaning behind everyday actions of individuals in the face of adversity. The students’ understanding and appreciation of historic civil rights leaders was strong, but their disconnect with history and frustration with current events contributed to the sentiment that as minority students they were unable to create the change they wanted to see in their communities. Milord guided the students into a discussion about the qualities of leadership that are required to create change. What made the Black Civil Rights leaders successful? What held them back? What faults or frailties did they overcome? What choices did they make that we perceive as the right or wrong decisions?

USA Students - Stage One Class 2The class narrowed their focus and began research on four central figures of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement: Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party, and Bayard Rustin. Students would utilize their collective artistic license to build a scene about each figure, based on a combination of factual evidence and their own fictional embellishments, in order create a portrait of well-developed characters and dramatic narrative arc. Milord encouraged his students to collect research from a diversity of resources, including teachers, family, and community members who could share their personal stories and connections with historical events. After compiling their list of facts and their checking sources, the USA students began to dig deeper, take on the role of these historic figures, and improvise scenes around their personal and public lives.

Malcolm X

Malcolm X

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin

Stage One Blog Post - Black Panther

Black Panther Party

 

 

New Interviews, Lesson Plans, and Articles for SHOCKHEADED PETER

The Education Staff at Company One Theatre is pleased to share our SHOCKHEADED PETER Curricular Connections Packet.  This resource is ideal for both students and teachers who want to read more about the world and history of the play, the collaborating artists, and the stories behind script.  Each packet contains experimental and interactive lesson plans that address current state curriculum frameworks in theatre production, language arts, and social studies. We hope this packet leads to memorable experiences and conversations for your classroom, either before or after your visit to see SHOCKHEADED PETER! Download your FREE copy:

SHOCKHEADED PETER Curricular Connections Packet – March 2015

Great Start to a New School Year for Stage One: In-School Theatre Students

It’s the end of the First Quarter for Boston Public Schools and the Stage One: In-School Students have accomplished a lot: Some classes have begun writing their own original work, others have been working on improvising scenes and moving on stage as an ensemble. The Students at Another Course to College, Jeremiah E. Burke High School, and Urban Science Academy had the opportunity in October to present their work to peers, families, and the school community. As part of the curriculum at each school, sharing the work with audiences is an important step that deepens students’ skills in theatre arts and places greater value on their own lived experiences.

Another Course to College - October 2015 Showcase

Students at Another Course to College take a bow during their First Quarter Showcase.